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Nutritional evaluation and processing methods of some traditional snacks consumed by the Khasi tribals of Meghalaya

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Eight varieties of traditional rice-based snacks Pumaloi, Pudoh, Jashulia, Putharo, Pukhlein, Pusaw, Pusla and Putyndong from Shillong and villages in the Ri-Bhoi district eaten by the Khasi tribals of Meghalaya were evaluated for processing methods and nutritional contents. Markets in and around Meghalaya were surveyed for local rice-based snacks. Processing generally involved steaming and/or roasting of rice flour, which was made from special varieties of sticky rice. The nutritional content in terms of dry matter, protein, fat, fibre, mineral content, Ca and P of these snacks were studied. The nutritive value of Jashulia was the best in terms of high amounts of protein, fibre, Ca and P and low amounts of fat. All other snacks were also superior in terms of the low amount of fat used in their preparation in comparison with other Indian snacks, tastes and textures.
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Ecology of Food and Nutrition,
45: 27-38, 2006
Copyright ©Taylor
&
Francis LLC
ISSN: 0367-0244 print / 1534-5237 online
001: 10.1080/03670240500408336
PREPARATION TECHNIQUES AND NUTRITIVE
VALUE OF FERMENTED FOODS FROM THE KHASI
TRIBES OF MEGHALA YA
D. AGRAHAR-MURUGKAR
ICAR
Research Complex for NEH Region, Meghalaya,
India
G. SUBBULAKSHMI
Nirmala Niketan, College of Home Science, Mumbai,
India
Fermented products form an intrinsic part of the diet of the tribal peoples in
northeastern India. This study describes the preparation methods and the
nutritive value of fermented soybean (tungrymbai), bamboo (Iungsiej), and
fish (tungtap) consumed by the Khasi tribes from Meghalaya in northeastern
India. Results of the analysis are reported on a dry matter basis. Analysis
showed that tungtap was a good source of protein (40.6 g/IOOg), calcium
(5040 mg/IOOg), phosphorus (1930 mg/IOO g), sodium (6.26 mg/lOOg), and
potassium (53.18 mg/ IOOg).Tungrymbai contained high amounts of protein
(45.9 g/IOOg), fat (30.2 g/lOOg), fiber (12.8 g/IOOg), carotene (212.7 Ilg/
100g), and folic acid (200 Ilg/l00g). Lungsiej was found to be of better nutri-
tive value than its unfermented counterpart in terms of protein (8.5 g/IOOg)
and iron (I mg/IOOg on a fresh weight basis). Fermented foods are typical of
the region and exhibit unique flavors and textures that may not be palatable
to everyone. It is well established that the process of fermentation enhances
the nutritional quality of any product by increasing amounts of vitamins and
protein solubility, and by improving amino acid patterns and the same is true
with these products studied.
Address correspondence to D. Agrahar-Murugkar, ICAR Research Complex for NEH
Region, Umroi Road, Umiam 793103, Meghalaya,lndia. E-mail: dipikaagrahar@yahoo.com
27
28 D. AGRAHAR-MURUGKAR AND G. SUBBULAKSHMI
KEYWORDS fermented foods, edible bamboo, trash fish, soybean, nutritive
value
INTRODUCTION
The Northeastern region of India is inhabited largely by tribal peoples
who make up 75% of the population of the region. Meghalaya is one of
the seven sister states in the northeastern part of India where 85.5% of
the population is tribally affiliated (National Centre for Health Statistics
(NCHS), 1987). Khasis, Garos, and Jaintias are the three main tribes of
Meghalaya. The entire region represents a unique series of topographi-
cal, economic, sociological, and cultural conditions that differ signifi-
cantly from the rest of the country (Parvathi Easwaran et aI., 1989).
Fermented products are widely used all over the world in different cul-
tures. There are various regional methods of fermentation depending on
the product being fermented and the taste preferences of the people of the
region. The practice of fermentation is followed especially in southeast
Asian countries, where fermentation of soybean, edible bamboo, and fish
are common. Fish products prepared by lactic acid fermentation remain
common in Laos, Kampuchea, and in north and northeastern Thailand
(Ishige, 1993; Kantrong and Banjong, 1999). Succulent bamboo shoots of
various species are harvested and fermented by the Tibeto-Mongoloids of
Asia (Yamaguchi, 1983). "Soyadawadawa," a moist fermented product
with the strong odor of ammonia, is commonly consumed in Nigeria (Dike
and Odunfa, 2003).
The northeastern region of India is similar to the southeastern Asian
countries not only in terms of the climate and the ancestry of people, but
also in their food habits. Three fermented products figure prominently in
the everyday diets of the Khasis like the Southeast Asians viz. fermented
fish, soybean, and bamboo.
Tungrymbai is a fermented vegetable protein prepared from soybean
(Glycine max L.Meri). Soybean is fermented at the household and village
level, though the art is slowly dying out, as the process is tedious and
because the fermented product is easily available at the market.
Bamboo cultivation has been practiced in many tropical countries
for thousands of years and is grown as a cash crop mainly in the north-
eastern parts of India. There are many varieties of edible bamboo avail-
able in the region. However, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii is the preferred
variety for fermentation. This product is also processed at the village
NUTRITIVE VALUE OF FERMENTED FOODS
29
level and sold in the same markets as fermented fish and soybean. Stewed
bamboo shoots (Beniwal and Singh, 1988), pickled bamboo shoots
(Tamang and Sarkar, 1996), and fermented bamboo shoots (Bhatt and
Bujarbaruah, 2004; Sarangtham et aI., 2003) are regarded as delicacies
and are highly prized.
In
northeast India, a special variety of trash fish Puntias sophore is
used to make the fermented fish product. This product is made at the vil-
lage level and is sold throughout the district at the weekly markets. Fer-
mented fish is also traditionally prepared (Ngari) in the Manipur state of
northeastern India (Sarojnalini and Vishwanath, 1994).
Very few reports, however, are available on the process of prepara-
tion of fermented foods and their nutrient contents.
In
this study, three
fermented products-fermented soybean, bamboo, and fish-consumed
by the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya were investigated in terms of processing
and nutritional aspects.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Identification and Collection of the Fermented Products
Three fermented products viz. fermented soybean, bamboo, and fish were
collected and used for the study. The process of preparation was recorded
with the help of personal interviews with the local people as well as with
the vendors of the products. The edible bamboo and soybean species were
scientifically identified at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic
Resources, Barapani, Meghalaya, and the Botanical Survey of India,
Shillong, Meghalaya and the trash fish Puntias sophore was identified at
the Fisheries Division of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research
(ICAR) complex for the NEH region, Barapani, Meghalaya.
Seven weekly village markets were randomly chosen for sampling.
The main market of Shillong called "Iewduh" was also included since it
is the biggest market in the state. Samples of 50g each were collected
from half of all the vendors selling the product in each weekly market and
the city market. The samples were then pooled for nutrient analysis. This
process was repeated in the months of March, June, September, and
December.
Analyses.
All the analyses were carried out in triplicate to ensure repli-
cability of the results. All results are reported on a dry matter basis.
30
D. AGRAHAR-MURUGKAR AND G. SUBBULAKSHMI
Macronutrients. Tungrymbai
(fermented soybean), lungseij (fermented
bamboo), and
tungtap
(fermented fish) were weighed and dried in the
drier (Narang Scientific Laboratory Instruments, New Delhi, India) at
40
0
C until a constant weight was achieved to estimate moisture content
of the samples (Raghuramulu et aI., 1993). The crude protein content of
the samples was estimated by the MacroKjeldal method (AOAC, 1990)
where the sample was digested with a known quantity of conc. H2S04in
the KelPlus digestion apparatus (Pelican Equipment, Chennai, India).
The digested material was distilled with the addition of 40% NaOH into
the digested material. The released ammonia was collected in 4% boric
acid in the KelPlus Automatic Distiller (Pelican Equipment, Chennai,
India). The resultant boric acid, which now contained the ammonia
released from the digested material, was then titrated against O.IN HCI
manually. The nitrogen content thus determined was multiplied with a
factor of 6.25 to arrive at the amount of crude protein (Raghuramulu
et aI., 1993). Fat in the samples was determined by extracting a known
weight of powdered plant sample with petroleum ether using the
Labconco (Germany) ether extract apparatus (AOAC, 1990). Crude
fiber was determined by acid and alkali digestion methods using Fibra
Plus Fibre tech apparatus (Pelican Equipment, Chennai, India) on the
fat extracted sample (Raghuramulu et aI., 1993). The ash content was
determined by corn busting the plant material in silica crucibles in a
muffle furnace at 620
0
C for 3 h (AOAC, 1990).
Minerals.
The ash obtained after combustion in the muffle furnace was
used to prepare the ash solution, which was in turn used for the estimation
of calcium and phosphorus. Calcium was precipitated in acidic medium as
insoluble calcium oxalate by adding saturated ammonium oxalate solution.
The precipitate was dissolved in dilute sulphuric acid (1:9), heated and the
oxalic acid thus released was titrated against standard potassium perman-
ganate solution in warm condition (60
0
C) to get the calcium content of
the sample (Raghuramulu et aI., 1993). Phosphorus was determined spec-
trophotometrically using the Vendate's solution (AOAC, 1990).
The micronutrients (Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn, Mg, Se) were determined by
atomic absorption spectrophotometric method. The samples, which were
digested in a tri acid solution of H2S04,HCI, and HN03were passed
through Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (A.A.S) using different lamps
and calibrated for different micronutrients. Potassium and sodium were
determined by flame photometer after tri-acid digestion (AOAC, 1990).
NUTRITIVE VALUE OF FERMENTED FOODS
31
Vitamins. Vitamins were estimated at the Food Research and Analysis
Centre (New Delhi, India). ~-carotene in soybean and bamboo was ana-
Iyzed by the method given by Siong et ai., (1995). The retinol content in
the fermented fish was analyzed as per the method in "Analytical Meth-
ods for Vitamins in Food/Pharma premixes" (Roche Vitamin and Fine
Chemicals Division, 1992). Total Folic acid was analyzed by High Per-
formance Liquid Chromatography (H.P.L.C) using the method given in
"Analytical Methods for Vitamins in Food/Pharma premixes" (Roche
Vitamin and Fine Chemicals Division, 1992).
Statistical Analysis
After determining all the parameters, the data was then analyzed using
the statistical package SYSSTAT 7.0 for Windows.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Processing methods
"Tungrymbai" is a fermented vegetable protein prepared from soybean
(Glycine max L.Meri). It is a moist fermented product with a strong odor
of ammonia, which shows a marked similarity to "Soyadawadawa," a fer-
mented soybean product from Nigeria (Dike and Odunfa, 2003) in terms
of its preparation method. The production of tungrymbai is still a tradi-
tional art carried out by local Khasi at various centers in the state.
Because of this, the flavor is variable and in order to standardize the pro-
duction technology, there is a need to study the science of the process
and upgrade the local production technology.
Preparation of tungrymbai consists of cleaning and washing the soy-
bean seeds after which they are soaked in double the quantity of water for
about
4-6
h. The outer skin is normally removed before cooking by rub-
bing the soaked seeds gently between the palms. The separated skins are
then discarded. The soaked soy is cooked in the same water for about I h
till all the water is absorbed. The product is then allowed to cool down
after which it is ready for packing and incubation. Packing and incuba-
tion converts the cooked soybean into the fermented product. This step
is considered very important, as it governs the quality of the final prod-
uct. To pack and ferment the product, a bamboo basket is lined with
lamet leaves (Clinogyne dichotoma) and the cooked soybean is placed in
32
D. AGRAHAR-MURUGKAR AND G. SUBBULAKSHMI
it. The basket is completely covered with lamet leaves and a thick cloth is
placed over it to prevent contact with air and maintain warm conditions
necessary for fermentation. After proper covering, the basket is kept over
the fireplace of the house to maintain warmth. The incubation is done for
3-5
days to get the desired product. The color of the well-fermented
product is brown with a characteristic odor and mild pungency. The final
product is cooked with oil and spices before consumption.
"Lungsiej" prepared from Dendrocalamus hamiltonii species of bam-
boo, is a traditional fermented product used as a condiment in the prepa-
ration of many Khasi dishes. To prepare lungseij, tender bamboo shoots
are selected and cut from the bamboo grooves. Only tender shoots of
about 0.5 meters in length are selected for this purpose and cut off from
the main stem. The bamboo shoot, which is brought from the forest, is
dirty and the outer skin is full of tiny hair, which causes itching when
touched. The skin and hair are removed carefully by cutting till the fleshy
white portion is obtained. The bamboo shoots are then washed thor-
oughly with water to remove the hair and dirt. The properly cleaned
bamboo shoots are sliced or cut into small pieces. Fermentation of sliced
bamboo shoots is carried out in two different ways: inside the bamboo
cylinder or inside the glass bottle. The quality of the final product,
including the taste and flavor, depends on the process used for fermenta-
tion. Steps involved in both methods are explained below.
Fermentation inside the bamboo cylinder.
Bamboo cylinders are
made by cutting the bamboo nodes in such a way that one side is closed
while the other side remains open. The sliced bamboo shoots are filled inside
the bamboo cylinder to its full capacity and the open side is closed with the
help of leaves and sealed by tying up the rim with thread or grass. The ends
are sealed to prevent any accidental seepage of water into the cylinder which
would turn the shoots black making the final product unfit for consumption.
The bamboo cylinders are then immersed in the nearby stream upside down
for a period of about
1-2
months for fermentation. Care is taken that the
water of the stream, where bamboo shoots are kept for fermentation, is cold,
otherwise it is thought that shoots will not ferment properly and will spoil.
Fermentation inside the glass bottle.
In this process, the sliced bam-
boo shoots are filled inside the glass bottle and then water is added till
they are submerged. Then the bottle is closed tightly with the cap and
kept in the corner of a room or above the cooking place of the house for
NUTRITIVE VALUE OF FERMENTED FOODS
33
fermentation. The keeping quality of fermented bamboo shoots inside
the bottle is better than the fermentation inside the bamboo cylinders.
Shoots in the bottle can be kept up to 1 year where-as in the case ofbam-
boo cylinders, the product has to be consumed within I or 2 months.
Fermentation of the bamboo shoots in glass bottles is more popular
among the people of urban areas, whereas fermentation of bamboo
shoots inside the bamboo cylinder is preferred by the farmers and rural
people.
Trash fishes are small in size and bony in nature and are often dis-
carded or used as animal feed. The process of fermentation, however,
enhances the palatability basically by softening the bones and improving
the flavor and texture of the meat. To prepare the product, the fish (Pun-
tias sophore) is initially scaled and degutted. Salt is applied thoroughly on
the insides as well as the outside. The fish is then placed in a clay pot.
The clay pot is filled with a mixture of salt and either fish fat or pork fat,
covered using a banana leaf, and bound tightly at the rim using a jute
cord. This clay pot is then left as such for a period of
6-7
months at room
temperature. After this time, the cord is opened and the fish is taken out.
The extra salt and fat is removed with the help of a sharp knife and the
fish is sold. The fish has a soft spongy texture and is commonly used in
the form of "chutney" with green leaves, onions, and chillies. In this case
the whole fish, including the head and bones (which soften during fer-
mentation), are consumed.
Nutrient Profile
Fermented soybean, bamboo shoots, and fish were analyzed for their
macronutrient contents (Table I). During the process of fermentation of
tungrymbai and lungseij, water was added thereby increasing the mois-
ture content considerably. The dry matter contents were 8.1 g/l 00 g in
lungsiej and 28.9 g/IOO g in tungrymbai. In the case oftungtap, salt was
Table 1. Macronutrient content of fermented foods
Name Dry Matter Protein Fat Fiber Ash
(g% on dry matter basis)
Tungrymbai 28.9 45.9 30.2 12.8 5.5
Lungseij 8.1 8.5 0.6 11.1 14.8
Tungtap 66.5 40.6 19.6 0.4 32.2
34
D. AGRAHAR-MURUGKAR AND G. SUBBULAKSHMI
added to the fish and the pot sealed trapping moisture in the fish and the
dry matter content was 66.5 g/ 1OOg.
The protein contents of the fermented foods were marginally higher
than their unfermented counterparts. The reason for this could be due to
the presence of microorganisms which grow during the process of fer-
mentation. The protein contents in fermented soybean were 45.9 g/lOOg
as compared to 43.2 g/l OOg in the un fermented counterpart. In fer-
mented bamboo, the contents of protein was significantly higher (8.5 g/
lOOg) in comparison to 3.9 g/ 100g in unfermented bamboo shoots.
There are many varieties of edible bamboo, which are all very different
from one another. Since the exact species of conventional bamboo is not
given by Gopalan et al. (1989) it is very difficult to pinpoint the reason
for the difference in protein content seen. The protein content oftungtap
was also higher (40.6 g/l OOg)than the conventional fishes, probably for
the same reasons as given above. Another study examining the crude
protein of the fermented fishes showed a varible range from as low as 1%
to as high as 14% (Mizutani et al., 1992).
As with protein, the fat content of the fermented foods was higher than
the unfermented counterparts. The fat content was found to be 0.6 g/l OOg
in lungsiej as compared to 0.5 g/lOOg in fresh bamboo shoots; 19.6 g/lOOg
as compared to 17 g/l OOgin conventional dried fishes, and 30.2 g/1 OOgin
tungrymbai as compared to 19.5 g/lOOg in unfermented soybean.
The fiber content was low (0.4 g/l OOg) in tungtap as with other
fishes and 12.7 g/lOOg in the fermented soybean, a pulse with good quan-
tities of fiber. Ash content was high in tungtap at 32.2 g/l OOg,whereas it
was only 5.4 g/lOOg in tungrymbai.
Sarojnalini and Vishwanath (1994) found that Puntias sophore used
in a traditional fermented dish preparation (Ngari) in Manipur contained
18% moisture, 45% proteins, 19% lipids, and 11% ash, similar to the
results found in our study.
Minerals
In tungtap, the process of drying and further fermentation weakens the
bones considerably, almost dissolving them in the flesh portion. This
could be the reason for calcium levels of 5040 mg/lOOg and phosphorus
levels of 1930 mg/lOOg in the product. Tungrymbai and lungsiej showed
lower levels of calcium and phosphorus, though levels were higher than
their unfermented counterparts (Table 2).
NUTRITIVE VALUE OF FERMENTED FOODS
35
Table 2. Mineral profile of fermented foods on dry matter basis
Name Ca PFe Mn Cu Zn Na
K
Mg Se*
mg% ~g/%
Tungrymbai 830 890 6.81 6.98 2.24 6.18 0.13 16.35 363.29 1.4
Lungseij 820 540 12.49 14.01 1.37 5.88 0.22 47.93 293.66 X
Tungtap 5040 1930 6.26 53.18
*(-) Analysis not done.
(X) Negligible amounts.
Lungsiej contained iron levels of nearly 1 mg/l 00 g on fresh weight
basis. This level was higher than the iron level in fresh bamboo shoots
(Gopalan et aI., 1989) probably because of the varietal difference and the
process of fermentation itself acting together in tandem to increase the
levels of available iron.
Sodium levels have not been reported in the conventional soybean,
bamboo, and fish. The levels of sodium in this study were quite high
especially for tungtap (6.26 mg/lOO g) because of the additional amounts
of salt that were added while drying and during subsequent fermentation.
Both tungrymbai and lungsiej, however, contained lower amounts of
sodium (0.13 and 0.22 mg/IOO g respectively).
Magnesium levels were found to be higher in tungrymbai (363 mg/
100 g) as compared to the unfermented soybean (238 mg/lOO g) reported
earlier (Gopalan et aI., 1989). High magnesium levels were also found in
lungsiej (294 mg/lOO g). Selenium levels were small and negligible in
both fermented soybean and bamboo shoots (Table 2).
Vitamins
There was a wide variation in the content of carotene (Table 3) between
fermented bamboo shoots (29.4llg/100g) and soybean (212.7 Ilg/100g).
Table 3a. Carotene and folic acid content of fermented foods
on dry matter basis
Name Carotene Folic acid (~g/%)
Tungrymbai
Lungseij 212.7
29.4 200
(-) Analysis not done.
36
D. AGRAHAR-MURUGKAR AND G. SUBBULAKSHMI
Table 3b. Retinol content of fermented !ish
Name Retinol
(IU
%)
12.6Tungtap
The folic acid content (Table 3) was analyzed only in tungrymbai and
was found to be 200 ug/J 00 g, which was nearly double compared to its
unfermented counterpart that contained 100 ug/J 00 g of the pro-vitamin
(Gopalan et al., 1989).
One serving (100 g fresh weight) of tungrymbai contained 13 g of
protein, 5 g offat, 4 g offiber, 240 mg of calcium, 2 mg of iron, and 61.51lg
of carotene. In comparison to the Recommended Dietary Allowance for
Indians (lCMR, 1989) one serving of tungrymbai takes care of the
requirement of 26% protein, 16% fat, 60% calcium, and 7% of iron for a
day. One serving oflungsiej (100 g fresh weight) contained 1 g of protein,
0.5g of fat, 0.9g of fiber, 66 mg of calcium, and I g of iron. One serving
(50g fresh weight) oftungtap contained 13.5 g of protein, 6.5 g offat, and
1675 mg of calcium, taking care of the requirement of 27% of protein,
21 % fat, and up to 4 times the requirement of calcium for the day.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Fermented foods were found to be rich in a variety of nutrients, such as
proteins, fats, minerals (including calcium, phosphorus, and iron), caro-
tene, and folic acid. The taste and flavors of these foods, however, require
getting used to because of the differences from conventional foods. The
Khasis enjoy these foods because of their acquired taste and can reap the
benefits of the good nutritional content of these foods.
In
India, where pro-
tein calorie malnutrition is a major problem, fermented vegetable proteins
have a great potential as an important protein source as basic ingredients
for food supplementation programs as a low-cost meat substitute.
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Soyabean (Glycine max L Merr) was processed in the laboratory to give a moist fermented product, soyadawadawa having a strong ammoniacal odour typical of iru, a fermented product from African locust bean (Parkia biglobosa Jacq). Microorganisms associated with the fermentation were Bacillus subtilis, B. Iicheniformis, B. circulans, B. pumilus and Staphylococcus saprophyticus. Bacillus subtilis was the predominant microorganism. The moisture level varied from 44% in freshly cooked cotyledons to 60% in fermented product. There was an increase in pH from 6.1 to 7.4; an increase in titratable acidity from 0.7 to 0.1 while temperature increased from 31 to 52°C over the same period of fermentation. Reducing sugar level increased from 1.88 to 5.7 g, protease activity level from 7.4 to 278 mg tyrosine equivalent/g and total amino acid content from 22 to 554 mg glycine equivalent.
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Fermentation of the fresh succulent bamboo (Dendrocalamus hamiltonii) shoot slices with crude inoculum from the exudates of traditionally fermented bamboo shoots available in Manipur as soibum for 50 days resulted in 2 fold increase in the content of phytosterols. The 11 microorganisms involved in the fermentation were isolated and identified. Further, efficiencies of these isolated microorganisms in accumulating the phytosterols during fermentation of Dendrocalamus hamiltonii shoot slices were determined ranging from 0.19 to 0.44% dry wt. The fermented shoot slices yielded β-sitosterols (0.82% dry wt.) which can be used as precursors of many pharmaceutically important steroid drugs.
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